When Talented People Acquire Bad Personal Brands

When Talented People Acquire Bad Personal Brands

personal brand

What’s the secret to having a positive trajectory in your growth as an accountant? I’ve spoken plenty about the power of exceptional client service, but there’s also the power of being aligned with the leadership of your CPA firm. It sounds simple enough to do, yet I see a variety of people in accounting firms who fuss over tasks that are not worth falling on their sword for.

For example, let’s say the firm wants everyone to record their time every day. However, a Senior Manager says, “Why do I have to turn in this stupid time report every day? What’s the benefit in me taking up valuable time in recording everything? None! There’s absolutely no benefit!”

First, why fight this battle? All it shows is that the Senior Manager here is difficult and doesn’t want to align with management. He’s communicating that he’s too good to follow the rules that everybody else does. Is any of that a story worth telling? No. It clouds all other accomplishments he might have.

As someone who I assume has a great interest in motivating people to move up the ladder within your accounting firm, you have to understand what barriers exist to these individuals becoming more successful. It requires a commitment to being honest with them about the behaviors in line with management and, frankly, what battles are not worth fighting over.  

Your Personal Brand: What People Say About You When You’re Not In The Room

What do all of the great companies have in common? Great leadership. It’s hard to come by an organization that’s weak at the top and still admired. Therefore, as an individual, it’s vital for everyone in the firm – yes, even Partners like you – to consider your personal brand and how those around you perceive it. So, as you consider certain team members for future promotion, ask yourself the following – and be honest here in answering:

When requested to do something, do they do it willingly, even if they have some personal reservations? Or do they often mumble angrily about how stupid the request is and how they have better things to do?

PSG’s Jim Brasher identifies why a negative personal brand can come from getting hung up on the wrong things.

One personal brand is a source of positive energy while the other is not. In my experience, I always assumed that if I received a directive from a superior, I would do my best to carry it out unless I thought it was illegal, immoral or unethical.

If I thought it was misguided, I would say so if my opinion was sought out by leadership. If the decision remained the same, then I didn’t challenge it but rather did my best to comply. I had to give my superiors the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they knew more about a given topic than I did, that it had been well thought out and there was a good reason for doing it.

When you start from that assumption, you’ll do your best to see the request through. You’re seen as more adaptable to changes in strategy, tactics, how you might prepare someone’s returns and more.

Compare this to a different personal brand of negative energy, being seen as the constant naysayer who never sees the benefit of doing anything new and different.

Take Care Of What You Can Control First

I’ve often seen leaders venture down a path that turned out to be the wrong one and had to reverse course. It’s probably happened to you in some form. But then again, when has leadership made every decision perfectly anyway?

Know this: If someone on your team is always the dissenting voice in the room, there’s a potential price to be paid for that in terms of how other Partners view them as a person who is constantly difficult to work with and get along with.

Instead, as you are mentoring these types of individuals, take a page out of my mentor’s playbook when he gave me the following excellent advice:
“Jim, take care of all the things that are within your control. How you respond to clients. When you respond to clients. When you build plans. When you bill and collect from your clients. All of these things are within your control. Take care of those items. Stay off the radar screen for all the bad stuff and you’ll find a lot that’s within your control.”

Many people believe they can get by on talent alone and, as a result, can say whatever is on their mind without consequence. But don’t forget that your people also have to honor the firm’s culture and leadership.

Communicating a personal brand internally isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a consistent effort. But what skills do your team members need to effectively build a rapport with those of you in leadership? How can you guide them to demonstrate unparalleled service to your clients and the firm more frequently?

You don’t have to formulate this game plan on your own. Professional Strategy Group has developed a wide range of workshops for the up-and-coming CPA firm members that teach seniors, managers, and senior managers how to move their careers forward with more innovative communication strategies. Examples of these workshops and classes include:

  • Effective Communications for Seniors – A one-hour class focused on the skills seniors need to communicate with superiors and subordinates.
  • Becoming an Entrepreneur – This three-hour class for Senior Managers explores the behavior’s needed to become a Partner.
  • Superior Service – A full-day course focused on how senior managers and managers can provide exceptional service to their clients and superiors. A shorter three course is available for seniors.

To get your team members focused on the right tasks and growing into a thriving career with your firm, contact the best training and coaching program for the accounting industry there is: Professional Strategy Group at 312.860.0873 or email jimbrasher@professionalstrategygroup.com.